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Designer labels wear green credentials in their seams

by Tom Knowles, November 1, 2021


Photography by Ben Stansall/Getty Images

Technology that will inform shoppers about the eco-credentials of their clothing has been introduced by some of the world’s biggest fashion brands as part of an effort to be more sustainable.
Consumers will soon be able to scan a QR code on the labels of new items from Burberry, Mulberry, Giorgio Armani and Stella McCartney, to see the “sustainability credentials” of what they are buying.
Once the code is scanned by a smartphone camera, it tells the shopper how and when the item was made, the origin of its material, and whether it was created sustainably. Consumers will also be told how to care and repair the clothing so it can last longer.
If the clothing is sold on later, perhaps through a charity shop, new owners will be able to scan the label and see where the clothing originally came from and when it was made.
The tool, called Digital ID, was created through a collaboration between brands who are part of the “fashion task force”, which was founded under the Sustainable Markets Initiative, an organisation established by the Prince of Wales which aims to accelerate businesses’ transition to more eco-friendly practices.
The task force chairman is Federico Marchetti, the founder of Yoox Net-a-Porter, who has spent a year persuading some of the world’s most exclusive fashion brands to agree use the QR codes. Other brands involved include the British brand Johnstons of Elgin, Brunello Cucinelli, and Chloé. The QR codes will start being rolled out for clothes in next year’s autumn/winter collection.
Marchetti said it was “unprecedented” for so many different brands and platforms to work together on a “single innovative solution” to help push their industry towards a “more transparent and sustainable footing”. He said: “This Digital ID provides a genuine opportunity for consumers to make truly sustainable choices.”
The technology and platform behind Digital ID was created by Natasha Franck, chief executive of the New-York based start-up Eon. She has explained how each piece of clothing is given a “digital birth certificate” that includes information about where and when it was made, that then lasts the lifetime of the clothing item.
The work is designed to address the fashion’s sustainability problem, with the industry being responsible for one-tenth of global carbon emissions and a business model that relies on people discarding old clothes and buying new ones.
The new digital tool was commended by the Prince of Wales, who was given a demonstration of the technology while in Rome for the G20 summit, and called it “so encouraging”.

Prince Charles met with the bosses of brands such as Giorgio Armani, Mulberry, Chloe and Yoox Net-a-Porter in the gardens of the British Embassy in the Italian capital to discuss the Digital ID.
Charles, who called the fashion industry “one of the most polluting sectors in the world”, praised the tool saying: “People have the right to know if what they buy is created sustainably and there is a responsibility to tell them if we truly believe in the shared principles of transparency, accountability and enforcement.”
The Prince quizzed Mulberry’s chief executive Thierry Andretta about whether the handbag he was shown was leather and whether it was from a particular breed of cattle and sourced in the UK.
Hearing that it was sourced from regenerative farming methods and is low carbon, the Prince remarked that he wished “people knew the value” of ethically-produced leather in the “circular economy” over plastic or “strange spun” synthetic material.
“That’s why it’s so encouraging to make this happen,” he said of the information on the digital ID. “I’m so grateful to you all,” he added.

Originally published in

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